By Bill Turner
There are a lot of things that confuse me – Kim Kardashian, reality TV, the Chicago Cubs, to mention a few. But now there is something new – green smoothies, and my daughter tells me it is very, very important that I start consuming these concoctions. Change is sometimes so overwhelming. It reminds me of the famous line from the hit song by Marvin Gaye; “Mercy, mercy me, things ain’t what they used to be.”
So, here’s the story as told to me. You mix greens like kale or spinach in a blender with a mixture of fruit and some exotic liquid like coconut water. If you want to feel great and lose a little weight (that’s everybody in the U.S.!), you have one of these smoothies as your breakfast or lunch. If you want to lose 10 pounds (we’re still talking about 95 percent of the whole U.S. population), then you drink nothing but smoothies for 10 straight days. This is called a “cleanse.”
As my daughter tried to explain all of this to me, my memory went immediately to that famous Bob Newhart sketch where we hear the head of the East Indies Company talking by phone (in 1650) with Sir Walter Raleigh in America. Sir Walter is trying to explain this new product called tobacco. The best line is when the King says, “So, you roll this weed in a little paper, put it in your mouth and light it on fire??!!”
I could have easily ignored the whole smoothie thing, but I was given a Ninja blender for Christmas, a device that is especially designed to make these superfood drinks. After being properly trained in the alchemy involved, I started trying them and, holy cow, I soon found myself hooked.
As I started to investigate, I found that the green smoothie thing is bigger than I thought and has been going on for over 10 years. Where have I been? It started with the “juicing movement” in California (of course!). This requires an expensive machine that takes any fruit or vegetable and extracts only the juice containing all of the nutrients. The smoothie people quickly pointed out that the “juicers” were losing all of the fiber and also some of the vitamins and minerals in the pulp. I think that the smoothie group is correct, and the gear is much less costly.
In terms of equipment, a conventional blender will work, but it will be a slower process and you may quickly turn to the newer technologies. Many prefer the Magic Bullet, which starts at $40. This is definitely better for people doing smaller batches. Others swear by the Ninja blender (about $80), which has a bigger capacity. Both work great.
We will talk about some enhancements later, but first go to the supermarket and buy the basics. Start with those ubiquitous plastic boxes of kale, spinach and mixed greens. During the summer, you can get it all from your garden. Try to get organic products if you can. You will put a handful of each of these greens into your smoothie. Secondly, you need fruit and the best way to go is frozen. The blenders chew it up easily and it makes the smoothie nice and cold. Get some mixed berries, strawberries and mango chunks. Next, you need a liquid, which can be simply water or milk, but many like to use things like coconut water, lemonade or rice milk. Finally, you can, if you wish, throw in some “additives” like flax seed, chia or protein powder.
I suggest that you can start with this basic recipe. It will make enough for both you and your roomie.
BASIC GREEN SMOOTHIE
2 oz. ea. (which is a big handful) of kale, spinach and mixed greens
2 oz. mixed berries
3 oz. strawberries
4 oz. mango chucks
1 Tbsp. flax seed
8 oz. coconut water or lemonade
The consistency should be like a thick milkshake, almost requiring a spoon. You should eat and chew the smoothie rather than just drink it. This gets the digestive process started in your mouth.
The recipe will produce two 12-oz. smoothies weighing in at only 119 calories. It will fill you up with 24 percent of your needed fiber and give you 93 percent of your daily vitamin C, 75 percent of vitamin A, plus many more vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and micronutrients. If you would like to do some fact checking, go to a great website called NutritionData.Self.com. You can look up the nutritional analysis of any food and calculate the nutritional value of any recipe. (That is how I produced the nutritional label for this recipe.)
Finally, let’s talk cost. Depending on where you buy the ingredients and in what quantity, the cost per smoothie is about $1.50 to $2.00. Not bad if you are replacing a meal or even if it supplements a meal.
Smoothies provide a great way to be creative with your diet. You can add anything.
Oranges, zucchini, sweet peppers, tomatoes, broccoli stems (that you usually throw away even though they contain high levels of vitamin C). Rinse and drain a can of beans and throw them in. Bananas are great also and full of potassium. Go wild and enjoy.
If you are not as concerned about losing weight or you want to get more greens and good stuff into your kids, you can add some more nutritional ingredients. How about an avocado — it adds some creaminess and good omega-3 oils. Yogurt makes it taste like a green milkshake.
So, what do you get out of all of this? Most importantly, its nutritional benefits; we get the fruits and vegetables that are supposed to comprise the most important part of our diet. The new USDA Dietary Guidelines say that an average adult requiring 2,000 calories per day should be eating five servings (1/2 cup) of veggies and four servings of fruit, EVERY DAY. One smoothie per day and you’ll have a good chance to stay within the guidelines. Without your smoothie, you know that you will struggle!
One of the big nutrition advantages of smoothies comes from the pureeing process itself. Studies have shown that the body absorbs only about 20 percent of the vitamins and minerals when we eat raw fruit and vegetables. In pureed form, “bio-availability” is increased and we can A second reason to go smoothie is weight control. J.J. Smith, the very attractive nutritionist and New York Times best-selling author of the 10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse now has tens of thousands of people following her program, which promises to take off 10-15 pounds in 10 days while detoxifying your digestive system. You eat green smoothies for 10 days, supplementing them with healthy but limited snacks like peanut butter, hard-boiled eggs, apples and celery. You’re not allowed dairy, meat, soda, sugar, bread or alcohol. My daughter and son-in-law tried it and confirmed the results.
If you make the smoothie one of your meals — usually breakfast or lunch — you are probably going to lose about one pound per week. Not too difficult to understand since you will be consuming only 100-200 calories for one meal. Try two smoothie meals a day and you will likely lose two pounds per week. The silly things are very filling and you don’t feel hungry. And, you can almost feel the antioxidants scavenging your insides and the vitamins and minerals going crazy activating your energy source. You know that the “force” is with you.
Nutrition is a relatively new science and the new 2015 Food Guidelines really bring that into focus. Eggs and dietary cholesterol are no longer villains — studies now show that dietary cholesterol does not have any measurable impact on blood levels of these fatty substances. The new Guidelines even back off the restrictions on salt. What does this all mean? Well, smoothies may look good for the moment, but who really knows. Some have already come out against them saying, for example, that pureeing the fruit makes it easier to digest and actually produces an unwanted sugar rush to the system. Dark leafy greens have oxalates, which can cause kidney stones and other problems with long-term intensive use of green smoothies.
Here is my recommendation: Try a smoothie a day for one meal if you want to lose weight and a 10-day cleanse if you want a jump start on a summertime body. But, like anything else, don’t go crazy. Eventually, settle back to three or four smoothies a week to aid nutrition and weight control.